Summer picnic with recipes from the southern Lagoon

August has arrived in Venice, and the Lagoon is as beautiful as always in this strange and unprecedented year. Breathtaking colors and skies, which by mid-August will fuse into something magical, the azure and purple the colors of the “fifth” season (more about that term soon). For now, we’re in the midst of a heatwave in the Lagoon, as it usually happens between mid-July and mid-August. But where do Venetians spend their summer weekends, and what do they love to eat?

Venetians spend summer weekends on the Lido whenever possible, in one of their private beach huts or beach lounges. Even on some hidden beaches on the Lagoon islands. Or, this year, a little farther away from the crowds. The Lido beaches are even wider and sandy when you walk along the bagnasciuga (shore) in the northern direction towards San Nicolò. You’ll be walking past pine groves and wild tamerisks, and salty herbs growing in the sand dunes amongst more tamerisks. You can walk until the mighty Mose embankments appear in front of you. And yes, on these concrete embankments, pink flamingos love to gather in spring and early summer! Here in the northern part, the Lido is all pines, wild herbs and salt-water loving plants sprouting in the sand dunes.

Or, you could explore the beaches further south, take the bus and ferry-boat to reach the second island shielding the Lagoon from the open sea, which is called Pellestrina. It is 10 km long, and sometimes it gets quite quite narrow, less than 1 km wide.

Did you know that there were two Pellestrina islands until the 16th century? Il Litorale di Pellestrina was interrupted by the third port of Venice, called Albiola, later interrato (filled in) and then called Porto Secco. You will pass it on your way to the southern tip of Pellestrina, the beaches and wildlife oases at Ca’ Roman: Here you can walk amongst the dunes and wild beaches surrounded by pines, eucalyptus, wild thyme and rosemary. A wonderful place have lunch at one of the tiny beach restaurants, such as Bar da Niki and Osteria Il Campiello.

Especially in summer, these small restaurants and bars offer grilled Lagoon specialties – grigliate della Laguna which taste really special as they are grilled on pine twigs and flavored with wild herbs growing all around. Here’s what a Lagoon grill platter would look like:

These aren’t the usual recipes for una grigliata, but taste and smell of the southern Lagoon. Of course, you can recreate these flavors in your own kitchen, provided that you make ample use of fragrant summer herbs and blossoms: Purple basil, lavender blossoms, thyme and rosemary blossoms – we make the most of the herbs while they flower in summer. Below, you can find our salsa ai fiori di Laguna – the Lagoon blossom dip which works with sea food in particular, and the side dishes like grilled potatoes and stuffed tomatoes above.

Recipes and stories like these will be part of our new LAGUNA IN CUCINA Membership, online from 5 August 2020.

4 responses to “Summer picnic with recipes from the southern Lagoon”

  1. Kathleen Gonzalez Avatar

    Oh my gosh, the recipe sounds so good! I’m going to check my lavender plant to see if I have blossoms right now. Do you suggest a particular type of tomato?

    1. Iris Avatar

      Thank you Kathy!! We use the cuore di bue – oxhearat tomatoes as they big and sweet.. they grow in the Lagoon vegetable gardens, especially in the northern part around Lio Piccolo. I hope you will enjoy the recipe!

      1. Meghan Avatar

        While nothing could compare with the cuore di bue, much of Europe doesn’t have access… even during the seasonal 4-6 week period they should be most available. For taste alone, cherry and grape tomatoes are a safe bet as a general rule when there are no cuore di bue to be found, or the only tomatoes at the market are mealy and/or spent days in a refrigerated truck. Is that true for these recipes? More skin is involved….. Also, I don’t see mention of the tomatoes in the ingredients.

      2. Iris Avatar

        Hello Meghan, yes you could use any tomatoes that are in season. They are not used in the sauce but come as side dish, grilled with rosemary!

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